Make a Reusable Grocery Tote bag in Fabric {& How to live Plastic Free in a Plastic world}

reusable grocery tote bag

In the movie Aquaman there is this scene where the king of Atlantis decides to throw back all the plastic waste (and other pollutants) deposited in the ocean bed back at earth as weapons. So poignant and well deserving. Oceans must have had enough in real life too and this scenario may happen sooner than later. But even if we are aware of the looming problem, are we willing to do enough to stop the plastic menace? Can you do something concrete to curb the ever increasing plastic usage? (Ref 1)

The first thing that should go from every home is the one-time-use plastic bags we carry from shopping malls and super markets. They sure do accumulate and are a real clogging thing on the environment. Here is a tutorial to make a Grocery shopping tote bag that is roomy enough to carry a lot of things but still look good enough to carry on your shoulders as you go shopping. The picture of the bag above has 5 kg of rice, 2 kg of flour, and various other packets stuffed inside and still has room for some more. So you know how much it will carry!

How to make the Grocery tote Bag

Step 1 Cut out the Fabric pieces for the bag

Follow the picture below to cut the pieces for the bag. You need to choose a thick densely made fabric for this. Canvas works best. Check out this post for a list of thick and heavyweight fabrics.

grocery tote bag sewing tutorial

2 pieces of Bag body measuring 12 1/2 inch width on one side and 17 inch on the other. The bag body length is to be 17 inches.

2 pieces of gusset pieces for the sides 17 inches long and 5 inch width

1 piece as bag bottom 12 1/2 inch long and 5 inch width.

2 pieces for the bag handles 25 inches long and 5 inches width.

Step 2 Sew the Bag bottom in between the bag body pieces

Keep one of the bag body piece right side up. Keep the bag bottom piece right side down- along the 12 1/2 inch edge. Join together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

grocery tote bag sewing tutorial

Keep the other bag body piece and the above joined piece together (right sides together) and stitch together at the 12 1/2 inch edge.

Step 3 Sew the side gussets

reusuable tote bag for shopping

You have to sew the three sides of the gusset to the bag body. Keep one of the side gusset piece along the sides and stitch.

You should not stitch the whole gusset in one go – when you reach the corners stop 1/4 inch from the edge.Then start again.

reusuable grocery tote bag DIY tutorial

This will create neat corners. Do this for the other side as well.

Do not forget to back stitch and anchor thread every where you stop. The picture below shows how the gusset looks after it is stitched.

grocery tote bag tutorial

The bag body will look like this now.

Step 4 Finish the edges inside

There is no lining inside this bag so you will need to finish the fabric edges of the seam allowances inside now. You need to do this for the bag to look neat inside, as it does outside.

You will have to either use a serger or use the zigzag stitch in your sewing machine to finish the fabric edges inside. It will also strength the seam.

You may also want to make another stitch along the seam to double strength the seam if you mean to carry things like the 5 kg rice I have

Step 5 Make the Bag handle

Take the handle fabric. Fold the 2 long edges to the middle.

grocery tote bag

Fold again by the middle – you will get a folded fabric which measures 1 1/4 inch.

diy tote bag for groceries

Stitch the edges – stitch along both the edges.Finish the short edges with zigzag stitch.


Step 6 Sew the top edge and Attach the bag handles

Mark to keep the bag handles 6 inches apart by the middle of the top edge.

grocery tote bag

Fold the bag top edge twice to the inside and keep the bag handle to the inside of this edge and stitch in place.

Make an x stitch to really strongly attach the bag handle.

Other than making this tote bag and carry it every where, What simple things can you do today  to reduce the plastic problem ?

Take drinking water in a stainless steel bottle, every where you go – Refuse to succumb to buying water in plastic bottles, unless you absolutely have to. Bottled water is one of the number one plastic pollutants. When you read that ” It takes 450 years for a single use plastic  water bottle to break down” it makes sense.(Ref 2)  

Use old newspaper to wrap waste.

Get your ice creams in a cone, not the plastic cup.

Carry your own mugs to office to get coffee. The paper cups you use still have a plastic lining inside and is just as bad. 

Buy more stainless steel containers and store food in them rather than in plastic containers.

If ordering food home through food delivery apps or carry takeaways insist on “No plastic containers”; I would have said ‘make food at home’ but that is easier said than done.

If you do not want to carry your shopping bag on your shoulders but would rather carry it by your hands, you can check out this tutorial to make a grocery bag here

grocery bg pattern

Ref 1 : I read that Plastic is the enemy of the earth here and here; Ref 2 : I read about the plastic bottles here.

Comments 7

  1. I have been using reusable shopping bags since the nineties. When I first started it was because the bags had nice designs and were better than the plastic. As time went on it became a way to be more environmentally conscious. I now make reusable shopping bags myself and will be selling them on the internet and flea markets.

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  2. This is great. I love it and I am fully motivated to venture into this kind of business. I hope it sells in my country and most importantly reduce the use of plastics.

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